I’d been hearing glowing reports of travelers having extraordinary experiences in Iceland and Norway, so with visions of glaciers and fjords in my head, I hopped a flight to Reykjavik. After landing at Keflavik airport, I was greeted by the friendly face of my Cox & Kings representative who escorted me to my hotel a few minutes outside the center of town.
I took a few hours to settle in and refresh myself after the flight before venturing down to the pier for a whale-watching tour. Over the next three hours, I saw minke whales, dolphins and a humpback whale in the chilly waters of the north Atlantic. Throughout the voyage, I remained nice and warm in one of the cozy suits provided by the ship.
Returning to dry land, I met my driver who took me out to the magical Blue Lagoon, a sprawling compound of thermal hot springs, spa treatment rooms and otherworldly landscapes. I breezed through the private entrance to the Exclusive Lounge, a VIP room that accommodates a maximum of 12 people and features a private lagoon with direct access to Blue Lagoon as well as a private outdoor lounge deck with spectacular views.
Thoroughly relaxed after soaking in the hot springs, I returned to my hotel for a good night’s sleep. The next morning, I met my guide and driver for a full-day outing to see the sights of Iceland’s Golden Circle. First stop: Pingvellir National Park, a rugged region where two tectonic plates meet; it’s also the site of the country’s first parliament. Next, it was on to Gullfoss, or the Golden Waterfall, an incredible display of nature’s power. Then we visited a geothermal field to watch the Great Geyser shoot superheated water hundreds of feet into the air. By this time, I was feeling hungry, so we stopped at the Hotel Geysir for a tasty selection of Icelandic and international food, as well as their famous bread, which is baked by the heat of the geyser itself.
On my last full day in Iceland, I embarked in a 4x4 vehicle to explore the untouched landscapes and glaciers of the country’s southern coast. On the way south, I was amazed at the diversity of terrain. One moment you see fields covered with sheep, the next you’re passing volcanic terrain and then beautiful green mountains with cascading waterfalls. When we pulled up to a glacier, I met a local guide who outfitted me with crampons and prepared me for our walk on the frozen river of ice, which was truly breathtaking. We continued to a black-sand beach for some off-roading on the dunes; from the shore I could see the famous Eyjafjallajökull Volcano that erupted in 2010.
The following morning I was picked up early for my flight to Oslo. Upon arrival in Norway, I was greeted by my Cox & Kings representative and taken to downtown Oslo about 45 minutes away. After checking in to my beautiful hotel in the center of the city, I met my guide who gave me a city tour that included Frogner Park, which houses the Oslo City Museum and the Vigelandsanlegget sculptures, which comprise the world’s largest sculpture park created by a single artist.
The next day I had an early flight to Stavanger. Upon arrival, I was met by my driver who took me to my hotel, which lies right in the center of the city and offers incredible views of the port. That afternoon, I headed down to the port for a ferry tour on the pretty Lysefjord. The fjords are lovely and you get to see many of Norway’s beautiful waterfalls as well as the famous Pulpit Rock, which towers above the waters. After the tour, I took a walking tour of Stavanger, which is very quaint, full of cobblestone streets, nice restaurants and cozy coffee shops.
Next stop: Bergen, Norway’s second largest city. After checking in to my hotel, I took a stroll around town, which looks just like a postcard. The following day, I headed south of the city to the incredible Solstrand Hotel, which lies right on the fjord. Arriving as the sun was beginning to set was an incredible experience — truly a sight I will never forget. I dined at the hotel (a delicious four-course meal) and soaked up some of the old-world charm before turning in for the night.
An early wake-up call next morning had me on the road to catch the ferry to Norheimsund. After a scenic voyage accompanied by only one other passenger, I arrived at the Ullensvang Hotel, where I was met by the owner who showed me around. The infinity pool that looks out over the Hardangerfjord is especially spectacular.
My final full day in Norway began with a trip Gudvangen for a ferry trip through the scenic Nærøyfjord to Flam, home to northern Europe’s steepest railway. I boarded the train, which soon left for Myrdal. We traversed some pretty incredible scenery before stopping beside a towering waterfall. Upon arrival in Myrdal, I transferred to the next train back to Oslo and my elegant hotel, which has played host to countless world leaders. It was the perfect place to spend my last night in Norway.
As I flew home the next day, I reflected on the great natural beauty of Iceland and Norway. Cascading waterfalls, majestic glaciers, serene villages on the fjords. While traveling through these magical, untouched landscapes, I was able to truly appreciate why travelers the world over have fallen in love with these northern lands.